Mobility: Why are travelers lagging behind smart shoppers?
"I want to see the world. Where do I start?"
"I have to travel for… What's the best way?"
"I need a vacation. Where can I go?"
A journey usually begins with one of those thoughts and before it concludes with "I'll post my travel photos online!" the typical traveler would have reached for his/her mobile phone or tablet at nearly every stage in between. In fact, a report from Think with Google (the research wing of the search giant) estimates that as many as 96% people turn to mobile devices such as a smartphone or a tablet when they need quick information or action. But spontaneity isn't the only driver for mobility, because as per the same report, 68% of smartphone users used mobile search to help with a need which was to be addressed later rather than immediately.
How big a market are we talking about? According to the UN International Telecommunications Union estimates from US News reports, as of 2015, there were enough smartphones in the world for 47% of the global population in 2015 – that is approximately 3.5 billion smartphones around the world. Breaking this down into individual markets (to compensate for an obviously skewed distribution), smartphone penetration ranges between 71% and 88% in the top 5 countries for that metric. Putting those numbers together, this substantial availability of mobile devices combined with the sheer convenience, would logically imply that a majority of travelers use mobile devices to do their travel-related research.
However this is certainly not the case, as recent research by Skift points out. In fact, just over a quarter of all travelers surveyed said they reach for handheld devices for doing research related to travel. On one hand, this represents a 16-fold increase in travel bookings over mobile devices, as reported by industry portal eHotelier. Yet, a clear majority (73%) of travelers still prefer desktops and laptops! In striking contrast to this stands the organized retail sector, where a good 70% of smartphone owners say they depend on mobile devices for doing research related to store purchases, according to Think with Google. This means there is no friction in adoption of the platform. So is the quality of content and/or usability to blame for this lack of traction specific to the traveler population? Or are we looking at it through the wrong lens?
To answer that question effectively, one must consider a specific demographic issue which has risen in recent times. Indicators suggest that the entire spectrum of the travel industry – service providers, technology providers, marketers and content producers - may need to understand a key segment of the travel market a lot better and deliver specific to their needs to make mobile a truly effective platform for customer engagement. Enabling a mobility strategy mustn't end at trying to utilize a new channel to deliver existing content, but rather there should be cognizance of the changing customer dynamics in relation to increased adoption of the new channels. What needs to change? Watch this space, as we unlock these new movements in the market which may be upsetting mobility in travel!